Peace studies should be part of school curriculum – Varshnie Jagdeo

Kaieteur News
January 24, 2007

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Teachers need to be trained in alternative disciplinary measures and the Education Act needs to be amended so that corporal punishment is abolished.

This is the view of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Rights of the Child, First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo.

She underscored this point at the recent launching of the State of the World's Children 2007 report.

She further emphasised that peace studies should be incorporated as part of the school curriculum so that students can benefit from adopting peaceful conflict resolution skills and much more. These studies should be made available to every citizen, in each sector, private and public, especially the latter, she said.

Pointing out that there is much debate going on about how Guyanese should discipline children, she posited that in many instances the opposing arguments being advanced are being taken out of context.

“There are some who feel that by suggesting that there are alternative ways to do so - which do not involve beating or flogging - that we are taking away their rights: 1) as parents to do their job and 2) to practice their religion which says “by sparing the rod you spoil the child… This is not the case on both counts.”

She posited that the society is way too violent and aggressive and prejudice and insecurity is way too rampant. She noted that as a country, Guyanese generally have bad conflict resolution skills and the quickest answer rather than talking, is aggression.

She pointed out that while, in allowing children to reach their full potential, they need to be provided with early and continuous mental and physical stimulation, loving contact, good nutrition and the provision of opportunities for the positive learning and a safe environment, they also need to learn responsibility and discipline in a way which will not violate and compromise their human dignity.

“We are surrounded by it from our early years, growing up, and adults shouting at each other, physical violence, on the streets, in the home, at school, in our teens, adult life and in the workplace. It's a vicious cycle and is mercilessly repeated.”

She lamented the fact that sitting down and talking through problems or explaining things peacefully seems to have become something of the past. “Violence is fashionable… look at music videos, action movies, the heroes are people of little words just action. Cuss up and fight down has become cool in some quarters. Don't take disrespect from anyone no matter who it is. These are the motivational influences our young people are lapping up”.

She made it clear that persons are free to practice our religions so long as that does not infringe on other human rights. “When I read the Holy Bible I did not take the rod referred to in ‘spare the rod and spoil the child' to be a steel rod. The rod of correction was to be wise instruction, guidance, like a shepherd guiding his flock away from danger. Not brutal flogging,” Jagdeo stressed.

She noted that people have tried to quantify and qualify the type of beating, how often, where you hit and the penalties for various crimes of indiscipline. However she believes that there is a violation of trust when a person beats a child. The child has the dilemma that they trust the adult or person meting out the punishment and that person would never harm them, therefore they must deserve what is happening to them, she said.

She also added that beating has become a substitute for conversation in Guyana . “A parent comes home exhausted from work, wants peace and quiet, does not explain this to the children who are making the usual noisy sounds children make when playing and instead of talking to the children, the parent explodes and lashes out for a reason which has nothing to do with the children's lack of discipline. The partner of the same parent also had a tiring and bad day and lost their job, comes home stressed and worried about what happens next, does not tell anyone, picks a fight with the adult who has generously shared licks to the children and it ends in domestic violence and physical child abuse.”

She posited that if Guyanese were to cut out violence from their lives, in personal relationships, family life, school and working lives, communities and society at large, then it would only be natural that they could not continue to discipline our children in this way.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a treaty adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in Nov ‘89 and ratified by the GOG in ‘91.

The Convention covers basic human rights of children to be protected from anything that would impede their development, like violence, denial of healthcare, nutrition, sanitation, participation in family and social or cultural life, love and care and most importantly education.